Hidley/Shugg Finish Second In OTC 2003!
Hidley/Shugg Finish Second In OTC 2003!
Open Track Challenge, April 6-12, 2003
The Open Track Challenge is an intensive series of seven races on seven tracks on seven consecutive days. The 2003 event included Pahrump, Las Vegas, Buttonwillow, Thunderhill (CCW), Thunderhill (CW), Willow Springs, and back to Las Vegas.
This year, Charlotte, NC local Bryan Shugg teamed up with the west coast's Jack Hidley to contest the Touring AGT Class in their Maximum Motorsports equipped 1987 GT Mustang. AGT entries must drive their street legal cars between venues on the actual tires (tread wear 140 or higher) that are raced.
Historically, the Open Track Challenge has been a tough race for Hidley. Hidley's previous Mustang was stolen just before OTC 2002, and Tom Wilson graciously brought Hidley on as his co-driver in the 5.0 Mustang project car. Hidley's all-new OTC 2003 entry was built up part time, after work, in the months leading up to the race. Everything in the car was to be brand new: Engine, suspension, brakes, transmission, differential, roll bar, and more. Anyone who has built a car from the ground up knows how many obstacles can be encountered, and it seemed like every obstacle that could have gotten in Hidley's way, did. The real crunch began when backordered and last minute parts didn't arrive until just weeks, and even days, before the event. As a result, the car was still being assembled at Maximum Motorsports shop in San Luis Obispo, Calif. one hour after the official start of the race in Pahrump, Nevada. Jack certainly wasn't happy with the last minute chaos, but that's racing.
After a speedy trip across the California desert, Hidley arrived in Pahrump, Nevada just in time to drive a few laps in the last session of the day. Despite missing the first three sessions, Hidley was able to post times within one second of the other two Mustang entries, and secured some points for Day 1.
Day 2 at the Derek Daly track in Las Vegas saw the engine cutting out in left hand corners and during hard braking. Despite the engine problem, Shugg posted a solid 2nd place finish. As long as the smog legal 300 RWHP 302 engine kept missing, Hidley and Shugg were hard pressed to catch the hard charging 560 RWHP 2003 Cobra of New Zealanders Pete Morley and Ray Newton. The nature of the engine problem seemed to be fuel starvation, but nothing obvious could be found. Calling it a day, they hit the road for Buttonwillow Raceway, back in California.
Day 3: Since the car seeemed to drive fine on the highway the night before, Shugg and Hidley decided to try one session at Buttonwillow before further attempts at diagnosing the engine miss. As luck would have it, the car died in grid as Hidley went to hit the track, and would not restart. Hidley, Shugg, and mechanic Ron Horwitz spent the remainder of the day diagnosing the car. They went so far as to drop the gas tank, with a 100 pounds of fuel aboard, to inspect the pump and mount. The culprit was eventually found, and turned out to be the fuel pump relay. It functioned under normal conditions, but would cut out during high g-load left corners and braking. Talk about a tough thing to diagnose! With the car back together in time for the last session, Hidley was too exhausted to drive, even on his home track, and turned the keys over to his teammate. The easterner, Shugg, was not able to learn the track in time to pull off a win, but posted a solid time one second behind the Morley/Newton team, and .7 seconds behind the well driven Bryan Sheldon/Chris Peterson 1998 Cobra.
Day 4 took the racers five hours to the north, to Thunderhill Raceway (counterclockwise). With just a few hours sleep, but the bizarre engine problem behind them, Shugg and Hidley could finally concentrate on driving and tuning the suspension. Shugg, normally the most level headed driver, must have had fatigue set in, as he experienced the first, and second, all-four-wheels off-the-track adventures in his driving career. When pressed for comment, Shugg responded, "At least I now know how to get off safely." Car owner/co-driver Jack Hidley commented, "I told him to go for it, not go farm it."
Later in the day, Shugg would run out of gas on track and have to sit out his last session. The exhausted and foggy-headed MM team secured a 2nd place finish, about one second per lap behind the elusive 560 RWHP Cobra.
Thunderhill Raceway (clockwise) on Day 5 afforded a well-deserved night of rest, as teams did not have to travel to the next venue. Said Shugg, "By Thursday, the car was set up beautifully. The motor was finally tuned. The StopTech Brakes were hauling the car down with force time after time. The MM suspension was tweaked nicely and was doing very well on hills, and everywhere else for that matter. And we had gas."
It looked like everything would finally come together. The Shugg/Hidley team was comfortably setting times within 1/10th second of the 560 HP Cobra beast, and they were sure that they could pull off the fast laps needed for the win. When the MM team fired up the car for the victory in the fourth run session, they discovered low battery voltage. The alternator had died sometime during the third session. Said Shugg, "Murphy's law. Who is Murphy anyway, and where does that *#$#* live?" After 10 minutes on the phone, the nearest replacement alternator was located in Sacramento, 90 miles away. The idea of driving in the dark with no headlights was not appealing. So, the MM team forfeited what was left of the fourth session in favor of using the last available daylight on the road. That night, the MM team limped the car 90 miles to Sacramento, stopping every 25 minutes to charge the battery for 15 minutes. The good news was that they were able to find a late night Pep-Boys, change the alternator, and get to Willow Springs Raceway just in time for two hours of shut-eye.
First thing Friday morning of Day 6, Hidley got a phone call from the '03 Cobra team of Morley and Newton. They had suffered some chassis damage, and also flattened the camshaft, in the last run on the previous day. The Morley/Newton team had still accumulated enough points to ensure a slim 1st place finish, even though they would miss the next two days. While disappointed by the demise of their friendly competition, Hidley and Shugg ran Willow Springs without a hitch, and secured a 1st place finish. The finish was not easy though. The well-driven Sheldon/Peterson team was well honed and hammering hard. During the lunch break at Willow Springs, OTC organizer Ryan Flaherty took the MM '87GT out for a few laps to "check the track". After only four laps in the car, he managed a 1:37 with a passenger. By comparison, a NASA AI Mustang turns 1:30, with race tires and about 800 fewer pounds.
Day 7 was back at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Shugg and Hidley again ran without incident, securing a 1st place finish, with the hard driving Sheldon/Peterson close behind.
Overall, the Shugg/Hidley team secured a close 2nd place finish, with their 370 points just behind the 2003 Cobra team's 380 points. A well-driven 3rd place went to Sheldon/Peterson, with 310 points.
Ron Horowitz, chief mechanic on the Shugg/Hidley Mustang, said, "We built a totally new car this year, so you had to expect a few teething problems. We had an alternator go at Thunder Hill last year, so we under drove it more, which should have kept it alive. We won at Willow Springs and Las Vegas, so we'd have had the championship if we'd won at Thunder Hill, but that's racing."
Said Shugg, "I want to congratulate Jim Hodge, the '03 Cobra owner, and his two drivers Pete Morley and Ray Newton. All three were true competitors, and excellent sportsmen. Their sportsmanship was evident by Ray coming to the remaining two tracks, Willow Springs and Las Vegas, after their '03 Cobra motor took a nap. He came to just hang out with our crew and take in the last two days of competition. Albeit from the sidelines while throwing chicken bones at our car. Congratulations on a job well done, fellas."
Hidley said, "I'd also like to offer my congratulations to Jim, Ray and Pete. They showed up to the event with a fast and well-tested car. It takes an enormous amount of work to prepare and campaign a car for the OTC. They deserved the win."